City officials consider projects to ease congestion on Providence Road

Monday, October 8, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:46 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 9, 2012

COLUMBIA — Turning left into the unrelenting rush-hour traffic on Providence Road is a daily frustration for many residents of The Grasslands neighborhood. Long lines of cars often accumulate behind the stop signs at Bingham, Burnam and Brandon roads, waiting for the deluge to wane.

"It's horrible," Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony said. "It's almost impossible during rush hour. There are accidents out there quite a bit."


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Anthony and other Columbia officials have come up with several plans they hope would make those turns easier and the lives of neighborhood residents less stressful.

Anthony said the most prominent plan would raze two houses along Providence Road to build a new road connecting Bingham Road and Burnam Road. New traffic lights would be installed at Providence and Burnam roads and at Providence and Turner roads, while the traffic light at Providence and Rollins Street would be removed.

The new street would allow Grasslands residents to drive to the intersection of Providence and Burnam, where a new traffic light would make turning left onto Providence easier, officials said.

The houses that would have to be demolished for the new street are privately owned. Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl said that the city would wait until they are up for sale to buy them instead of using eminent domain. One of the houses is a single-family home, and the other is a duplex, according to county records.

"I was told those houses come up for sale quite often," Kespohl said. "I think what happens is parents buy those houses for their kids to live in while they go to school here, then they sell them."

Grasslands residents have been voicing complaints about the intersections at recent neighborhood meetings, Anthony said, putting the issue into the "forefront."

Anthony said that she has met with representatives of the Grasslands Neighborhood Association, the Missouri Department of Transportation, MU and the nearby Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, all of whom expressed support for the project. The next step is to gather representatives of all these groups for an "interested party meeting," Anthony said. The plan has not yet been discussed by the Columbia City Council.

The city has been proposing projects to improve the intersections for years, Anthony said. "It's been an ongoing issue, and there's been no solution."

A project to improve traffic conditions in the neighborhood was approved in 2005, according to previous Missourian reporting. City Manager Mike Matthes' fiscal 2012 budget allotted $1.9 million for the project through the city's capital improvements program. The fiscal 2012 capital improvements document listed the project's status as "working with stakeholders to determine a recommended improvement" and indicated construction would begin in 2013.

One of the proposals includes building a right-turn lane on the property of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, which members of the fraternity opposed, Kespohl said. Another proposal was to widen Birch Road to provide Grasslands residents with better access to Burnam Road.

Kespohl said he prefers a plan to put a traffic light at Turner and Providence and to extend University Village Road to connect with Burnam. The plan Anthony supports could lead to people "stacking up to turn left" onto the new road, Kespohl said.

The Missouri Department of Transportation also is considering a plan to widen Providence at its intersection with Stadium Boulevard to ease congestion, Kespohl said.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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